Scotland: Road to the referendum

Thursday`s independence referendum is the culmination of a long fight by Scottish nationalists to break from Britain.

London: Thursday`s independence referendum is the culmination of a long fight by Scottish nationalists to break from Britain.

Here are 10 key dates along the way:
-- November 2, 1967: SNP shock breakthrough

Winnie Ewing`s sensational victory in the Hamilton by-election -- the Scottish National Party had not even fielded a candidate there in the 1966 general election -- in a seemingly rock-solid Labour seat catapulted the cause of Scottish independence onto the national stage.
-- March 1, 1979: Failed devolution referendum

A referendum was held on setting up a devolved Scottish assembly, and though Scots voted 51.6 percent in favour, the turnout of just 32.9 percent disqualified the vote.
-- May 1, 1997: Election of UK Labour government

After 18 years of a Conservative UK government which was deeply unpopular in Scotland, Labour returned to power under prime minister Tony Blair, promising a referendum on devolution. Since the mid-1960s, Scotland had been a Labour bastion and a Scottish Parliament would likely be a Labour-dominated body.
-- September 11, 1997: Second devolution referendum

The referendum was passed with 74.3 percent in favour. In a second question, some 63.5 percent agreed that the parliament should have powers to set tax rates.
-- May 12, 1999: Scottish Parliament meets

Following elections six days earlier, Queen Elizabeth II formally opened the 129-member parliament, sitting in the General Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh.

The vote produced a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition executive. Devolution of powers to the new parliament took place on July 1.
-- May 3, 2007: SNP minority

Alex Salmond began his rise when the SNP won 47 seats to Labour`s 46 and he became first minister in the devolved parliament.
-- May 5, 2011: SNP majority

The SNP won 69 seats at these elections, giving them a narrow outright majority. Salmond begins to push for a referendum on independence, while Conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron has little option but to agree.
-- November 26, 2013: Scottish government produces independence blueprint

Salmond unveiled "Scotland`s Future: Your Guide to an Independent Scotland", a 649-page prospectus for a separate Scotland which claims it would keep the pound and the monarchy, but expel Britain`s submarine-based nuclear deterrent, located west of Glasgow.
-- September 7, 2014: "Yes" ahead in the polls

Opinion surveys by a variety of pollsters had consistently put the "No" camp clearly ahead, but with 11 days to go until the referendum, a YouGov poll gave the "Yes" camp 51 percent to 49 percent for "No", excluding undecided voters.

The poll shocked Britain`s three big political parties into last-ditch action to save the union by promising more powers for the Scottish regional government in the event of a "No" vote.
-- September 18, 2014: Independence referendum

Voters in Scotland aged 16 and over head to the polls to decide whether or not to leave the United Kingdom. Nearly 4.3 million people register to vote -- a record number estimated at around 97 percent of the electorate.

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